I have been teaching at the Law School of China Youth University of Political Studies (CYU) in Beijing for the past three years. One of the professor at CYU, who had translated my book International Lawmaking into Chinese, invited me to teach at her university when I retired from Sophia University in Tokyo in 2014. I had had no knowledge about Chinese universities before, and I was not sure whether I really wanted to teach there. When I first visited the CYU in February 2014 to see the campus, I was staying at a hotel on campus. On the first morning, there were knocks on the door of my room, and two girls were standing there, inviting me to breakfast. That moment, I instantly decided to sign the contract!
While the relations between Japan and China were not the best then, professors and students at CYU were extremely kind and friendly. Professors were all PhD degree holders with experiences of having studied abroad. Students were very bright and hardworking, and they were so eager to learn international law. I found teaching there immensely enjoyable and satisfying. Having noticed that its library did not have many books of international law in English, I donated all my books in English to the library (see my blog post “Commemorative Event of Book Donation”). I asked a leader of CYU how long I could teach here. The answer was: “as long as you like.” I thought that the CYU would be my last home.
In early April, 2016, however, it was abruptly announced that CYU would be closed down. All of us thought this was a big joke for the April fool, but it wasn’t. Some of my students explained what was going on behind this decision. Young professors started looking for new jobs in other universities. I thought that the students and graduates are the people most seriously affected, as they would lose their Alma Mater, an important part of their identity. At the end of my class, I declared that I would never leave them at CYU. We were all in tears.
I wanted people of the world know that there was a university in Beijing, which was about to disappear, I took the opportunity to speak on the CYU students when the UN Legal Counsel paid a visit to the International Law Commission in May 2016 (see my blog post: “Conversation with the United Nations Legal Counsel at ILC”).
Afterwards, it was decided that the CYU be merged with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), with the creation of a new university called UCASS (see my blog post “Farewell to CYU”). It seems that most of the CYU professors’ contracts were renewed, while some were rejected. I was not sure if my contract would be continued, but when the syllabus of my courses were uploaded on the new university’s website in June, I assumed that I was “safe.”
However, the letter of invitation never arrived, without which application for a visa was impossible. The leaders and professors of the former CYU made painstaking efforts to get the invitation letter for me. I waited and waited, only to be informed in early September that my contract was not renewed by the new university. “Oh well,” I thought, “that’s all right. I had a marvelous time during the past three years with those bright young people at CYU, which I treasured more than anything else” (see my blog post: “Memories of the Group”).
I wrote to my professor friends in Beijing, informing them: “I would now have an early retirement and become a full-time writer of novels in Okinawa, and pursue a Nobel Prize for Literature!” Then, something totally unexpected happened. These professors in Beijing started looking for opportunities for me to continue teaching in Beijing (they apparently thought that my plan to get a Nobel Prize was simply a joke!).
A good friend of mine who is a professor at one of the best universities in Beijing talked to the Dean of his Law School, and the response of the Dean was quite favorable about accepting me as a visiting professor. However, the leaders of that university raised an issue of my age (74 years old), citing regulations and precedents. My friend thereupon sent a letter to the leadership stating that, as long as international law was concerned, experience was important and that my age should not be a problem if considered that Judge Li Haopei had been elected to the ICTY at the age of 87, and that Judge Shi Jiuyong (former judge at ICJ) was now over 90 years old but still serving as Legal Advisor in the Chinese Foreign Ministry. Though the leaders of this university did not seem to be fully convinced, I was truly moved by my friend’s kind efforts.
My friends at Peking University (PKU) were also working very hard to get me the teaching post. It was the youngest faculty member of international law who initially proposed my appointment at PKU. I am sure that it was not an easy task for him to persuade his colleagues of the Law Faculty and the leadership of the university. Thanks to his earnest efforts, the letter of invitation came very quickly from the PKU International Office, and now I have got a visa to teach there from November. I am truly grateful to him and to other professors of international law at PKU.
Thus, I will be teaching the course of International Dispute Settlement in the autumn semester, and the courses on International Lawmaking and International Environmental Law in the spring semester at PKU (all for graduate students).
As I wrote in my blog post (“Friendship”), “I am glad that I have chosen international law as my profession. Thanks to this profession, I have got so many good friends….” My recent experience of moving to a new university in Beijing attests to the fact that friendship is the core of our profession as international lawyers.
(18 October 2017)